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Chapter 58

MARY BETH HAAS bit harder into the thick wraps of gauze gagged into her mouth as she wrestled herself up into a cramped seated position.

She was in a pitch-black metal box with a low lid and cold, rusty walls and floor. Her arms were tightly wrapped around herself in a straitjacket. Shed been in the box for several hours. At first shed been terrified. Then angry. Now she was just sad, infinitely, inconsolably, hopelessly sad.

As she sat in the cramped dark, the events of the afternoon kept playing and replaying through her mind in a nightmare loop.

She knew she wasnt really allowed to leave campus to run laps at the Brearley Field House on 87th, but since she was a senior and the cocaptain of the reigning New York State Championship volleyball team, her teachers and her coach often looked the other way when she snuck out during her morning free period.

She had been coming through one of those cavelike construction scaffolding tunnels across the street from the gym when a man standing beside the open door of a van had said, Mary Beth?

She remembered a stinging numbness in her chest as she turned toward the voice. Her whole entire body seemed to cramp at once as she fell forward, powerless. A strong, wet, medicinal smell filled her nose and mouth then, and she was out.

Shed woken up in the straitjacket with a massive headache. That had been what? Seven? Maybe eight hours before? Eight hours of blackness and silence. Eight hours of being starving and thirsty and dirty and having to use the bathroom. It was like she was stuck at sea. A sea of darkness where there seemed to be no hope of being rescued.

At first, the sadness had been sharp, but now it was lessening, weakening like a candle dying out. She thought of her friends and teachers. Her mom. Im sorry, everyone, she thought. Sorry for being so stupid. Sorry for messing up.

She didnt know how much more time had elapsed when she heard the clacking of a steel shutter rolling up.

Oh, God! Somebody was coming. The man who had taken her.

An unhinging bolt of animal panic gripped her, froze her. He would touch her now, wouldnt he? Thats what they did, right? Crazy men? Hurt you. Raped you. Killed you. She whimpered. It would be better just to be buried. She didnt want to be in pain.

Thats when she shook herself out of her pity. She found a hard place inside herself and went there. She would fight for her life. She would bite and scream and kick. She found the thought of it comforting. She wanted to live, but more than that, she wanted to fight. She suddenly knew she could, and that was somehow better.

There was the sound of a car motor approaching. The clackety-clack of a metal gate going back down again. The killing of the engine and the sound of the door opening made her new strength waver for a moment, but then she bit down harder on the gag, and it was back.

I want to live, she thought. Please, God, just allow me the chance to live.

Chapter 57 | Worst Case | Chapter 59